Lawrence Welk

Lawrence Welk. Image from the Los Angeles Times

The Ursuline Sisters have educated countless children and adults. Among these folks is Lawrence Welk, bandleader who hosted the musical variety show The Lawrence Welk Show from 1955 to 1982. Born in Strasburg, North Dakota in 1903, Welk was taught by the Ursuline Sisters of Belleville.

Looking back on those years with fondness, Welk said in 1967, “Having such a wonderful group of entertainers and right hand people to work with, it’s small wonder that I still enjoy the privilege of working at the age 73. I’m sure my attitude toward work stems from my early training, both at home and through the lessons I learned from the Ursuline Sisters. My family and these dedicated teachers must have instilled in me some very sound and valuable way of life, and is largely responsible for my strong feelings about the youth of our nation. I am a firm believer in giving our youngsters a good start in life – a healthy, wholesome home environment; religious education and above all the opportunity to start work at an early age.” Welk remained a lifelong Catholic and was a daily communicant.

Lawrence Welk comes to Strasburg in 1960.

The following is an excerpt from Welk’s commencement speech in May 1976 at Emmons Central High School in Strasburg.

“Rev. Frank, good Sisters, teachers, students, parents, friends and relatives. I was so very pleased to receive your letter asking me to be your commencement speaker, but I have to confess I had very mixed emotions when the good Father’s letter first reached me.

“I felt a little uncomfortable, a little inadequate, about accepting your kind invitation. Those of you who have followed my career on television already know that speaking is not my cup of tea! My talks have seldom gone past “Ah-one and Ah-two.” But since this is my home town and I have so many relatives here, I figured I had a certain amount of security – and I decided to take a chance.

“I would advise you boys and girls right now, as you leave school, to try to find a job in a line of work you truly enjoy – and then stick to it! Find the work you love. That’s one secret to success.

“All of us are looking for success, especially as we start our adult lives, as you are about to do. But I want to tell you something. Success in life is not about money! Now this may come as a shock to some of you, but I want to tell you youngsters something very important: I have never worked a day in my life for money – never. I’ve worked because I love my profession so much. In my case, of course, it’s music, and putting on a show that will please the people. My musical family and I try constantly to please our audience.

“I might suggest that no matter what line of work you choose, always try to please the people. Give the best service you can, produce the best product, make your boss proud and happy he hired you! You will not only discover the great, great joy which comes from doing the best job you possibly can, you will also find that more money will come your way.

“And so, my dear young friends, what you do in the next few years will have a profound effect, not only on your own lives, but on the life of this country. The better, stronger and finer YOU become, the better our country.”

Lawrence Welk and His Hotsy Totsy Boys toured the Midwest in 1932.